Born in Alexandria on 18 August 1887 to a well-to-do family, Georges Hanna Sabbagh studied at Les Jésuites school in Cairo before studying Law in Paris in 1906. While in Paris, he discovered his passion for the arts and neglected the studies his father sent him to pursue. Determined, Sabbagh took on a salesman job to remain in Paris and study art at the Académie Ranson, making him the first Egyptian modern painter to study abroad, preceding sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar. Felix Valloton, a Swiss/French painter, associated with Les Nabis (post-impressionism), would substantially influence Sabbagh and his art. He will spend the next fifteen years in France until the death of his mother in 1920, which will force him to return to Egypt momentarily. In 1930, he acquired French citizenship. In 1936, he settled back in Egypt until 1945, then returned to France until his death in December 1951. These back and forth appearances and disappearances impacted his career in the sense that he was neither perceived as completely French nor an Egyptian artist.